A+E Networks this weekend is rolling out its most ambitious branded content push yet, a new Lifetime lifestyle/home improvement series co-produced by Wayfair in which every item that appears on the program will be available for purchase on Wayfair's site.
The Way Home, which A+E is calling the first "fully-shoppable" TV series, premieres Saturday at 11 a.m. on Lifetime. Its two hosts, interior designer Evette Rios and lifestyle expert Megan Colarossi, will discuss how to save time and money during home renovations, with segments focusing on do-it-yourself tips, renovations, design and home makeovers.
Each episode has a different theme, including fall, Black Friday, Christmas and organization. After each of the 10 weekly episodes premieres, viewers can go to Wayfair.com, the online home goods merchant, for The Way Home-themed sales events spotlighting the products featured on the show.
"There's been a huge explosion of interest in interior design websites and people wanting to see inside homes, and this plays into that in a big, approachable way," said A+E Networks executive producer Steve Ascher of The Way Home. "We didn't want this to be solely, hey, here's a product, and you should buy this. It was all about context and how this can simplify your life."
Audiences will be able to buy all of the items that appear on The Way Home.
"Everything, from the smallest pieces on set to pieces you see in a makeover in a taped package, is on sale at Wayfair," Ascher said. After each segment, the hosts will direct viewers to Wayfair.com, and the show will have "snipes" and bugs on the bottom third of the screen to drive viewers to the site.
While A+E Networks has been active in creating branded content, the company had been looking for an opportunity to make a bigger splash with a brand.
"It was always our hope to be able to find a partner that wanted to experiment and co-create together," said Amy Baker, evp of ad sales at A+E Networks.
She found that in Nancy Go, Wayfair's vp of brand marketing, and pitched her the idea when the pair got lost on their way to a Sundance Film Festival event in January. She was on board, as was A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc, whom they saw at a dinner that night.
"This show is launching nine months after the idea was conceived," Go said. "This pace is pretty unbelievable." The fall premiere allows Wayfair to capitalize on the holiday shopping season. "It's important for us as a retailer, but home furnishings are purchased all through the year. We did have a very strong Q4 retail plan, and supporting that with this show was awesome," she said.
The Way Home will have regular ad pods with traditional 30-second spots, but Wayfair will not be purchasing advertising during the show. Episodes will repeat on Lifetime throughout the week and be available on Wayfair's site (split into smaller segments), myLifetime.com (where they will be available to all visitors, not just authenticated Lifetime subscribers), and Lifetime VOD.
A+E Networks and Wayfair are also teaming up with Samba TV, which will provide cross-platform measurement and report how effectively on-air marketing drives viewers to The Way Home, and how the show drives engagement with Wayfair's website. Both companies will use those insights to shape their marketing and merchandising strategies around the show.
"Some of the insights that we glean will be used to help us identify audience overlap so we can say, if we were to air a promo in FYI, on this particular series on A&E, it would likely drive purchasing viewers to our show. And those promos are scheduled pretty close to real time, so there is flexibility there," said Lee Boykoff, svp of digital analytics and CRM at A+E Networks.
Lifetime will also use Samba and Wayfair's data to determine which program repeats translate into the most sales for Wayfair and will adjust its repeat scheduling accordingly. "We're experimenting on our schedule," Baker said. "If the Wayfair team says the Sunday at 9 a.m. is more impactful that the Saturday at 11 a.m., we can be nimble with the time period."
The A+E-Wayfair partnership is the latest example of how brands have moved away from traditional integrations in favor of alternatives like branded content. "Now more than ever, with the environment of media changing so much, companies have to be open-minded to doing things differently. It can't be the same mold. We can't just do an hour show with 30-second spots and throw in some integration. That's yesterday, so how do we evolve ourselves," said Baker, adding that The Way Home has also allowed A+E to create new content for dayparts outside of prime time.
Even before The Way Home's 10-episode run begins, A+E and Wayfair have grand plans for Season 2 and beyond. "We would love to green-light a second season, and it would be fantastic if it could be a daily show," said Baker. (Go noted that Wayfair sells more than 7 million products for the home, so filling a daily broadcast won't be a problem.) "Both CEOs would like that, but we have to crawl before we walk and see how this goes."